Beat Buzz Question(s) with R.M. Hendrix

We discovered Boston artist R.H. Hendrix thanks to Musosoup, the single Improvised Explosive Denied peaked our attention for its intriguing and in some ways disturbing title. Two hours later we were giving the 4th spin to his 7-track EP ‘War Is On Its Way’ and we were hooked by R.M. Hendrix’s sound.
A record that deserves, and in some ways needs a few spins to discover all the intriguing layers.

The EP is a remarkable production, its moody and anxious atmospheres carry a sound distant and at the same time welcoming. A record that “captures the sound of American angst through a plaster wall” using Hendrix’s own words. The variety of the songs is impressive, the gospel-like number ‘Violence Has Its Own Light’, the synth driven lead single ‘Bullet Point’ (probably our favourite song and featured in the our playlist Synth Lovers), the track that introduces us to his music ‘Improvised Explosive Denied’ and the Thom Yorke’s cover ‘Unmade’ are among the highlights of a pretty much flawless tracklist.

Not just a musician and producer but also a prolific writer, R.M. Hendrix has started a new essay series on Medium where he explores each song’s origins cast against the dire headlines of the day.

Many blogs have been picking up the EP since its release and we are very happy to introduce you to this artist with our questions covering influences, his sound, the current situation and some great music suggestions.

Read the full interview while you listen to R.M. Hendrix’s music:

Thank you so much for taking the time to answer our questions, I found your track Improvised Explosing Denied while scrolling through Musosoup and quickly found myself lost in the 7 track album. The atmospheres and sounds are quite something so we are very happy to ask you some questions. I’d say let’s start with some background questions to introduce yourself and your project. 

Tell us a bit more about your musical journey, when and how you started getting involved with music how did you develop your sound? 
I found my way into music by learning punk songs on my dad’s old acoustic guitar. I used to bang out tunes by the Ramones and Sex Pistols and then started learning more complex songs by R.E.M. and other bands from the Southern U.S. where I’m originally from.

When I got to college I discovered more textural music… moodier, layered music from The Cure, Ride, Medicine, and the Pixies. I just kept seeking this out, stumbling into the shoegaze scene eventually. I loved feeling the music as much as I loved hearing it. And I also loved the psychedelic roots that so many of the bands pulled from. It was about more than just telling a story with a song. It was about sharing or even creating an experience with a song. 

These things have stuck with me. If you go back to my first proper album, “This Dreadful Mess,” you’ll hear drones, layers of reverb, contrasting sounds, noise and melody. I still do all of that but with a broader palette of instruments beyond guitars. But maybe it’s more sparingly to make moments in the songs more moody or impactful.

What was your favourite artist/band as a child? 
I had favorite albums growing up. I loved the ethereal quality of U2’s Unforgettable Fire. And I loved the minor chords of R.E.M.’s Fables of the Reconstruction. Absolutely went crazy over “Fascination Street” by The Cure too.

What was the first music you bought? 
I’m not sure! I remember getting Thriller by Michael Jackson on vinyl so I’ll claim that as my first purchase. It could have been The Clash though.

What are your main influences now? Is there a particular artist or an album that inspired you more than others? 
I drew a lot from trip hop on War Is On Its Way. Massive Attack and Portishead were a big inspiration. I’ve been a fan of Thom Yorke’s solo records too. I love the layers of vocals and the beats he’s been making. I was also looking back at music from the early 70’s that integrated synthesizers into bands and that influenced this record a lot. I’ve made a couple of playlists that spotlight these influences:

70’s –

90’s –

Can you tell us a bit more about your local scene? Any special bands or special places that are worth a mention?
I live in Boston, MA which has a great history of bands like Galexie 500, Pixies, Drop Nineteens, Swirlies and more. One of my favorite locals today is André Obin, an electronic musician that also came out of the shoegaze scene. He has a new record called Bridging the Void.

Linked to the question above – how is it looking out there? Is there much happening in the live shows front? We’ve been to a couple of gigs here in London and it was great but we haven’t really been anywhere else yet. Are you doing any socially distanced gig or have you at been to any? 
Boston’s live music scene is completely shut down due to the pandemic. Bands have been doing live things on Facebook and Instagram and I think it’s going to stay that way here through at least the winter. I’ve done a few things online like chats, but haven’t managed to put together a “live in my living room” moment.

Please describe your sound in a few words, you can go quite abstract, actually we wouldn’t mind that. Also, what would be your short pitch to any label or companies interested in working with you? 
The rage of years, traveling through a wall, loosening the grit of the plaster, breaking glass, coming out the other side in tired, gauzy drips. It’s also kind of catchy.

My pitch for this record is that it’s the sound of this moment in America. It’s the story of protest and resistance.

We worked on an online 2-day festival over the summer, it was a brilliant production and the shows were great but chatting to the artists it was very clear that the main issue was about them finding it hard to deliver to a certain standard without any audience. What’s your take on live streaming gigs? Do you think it can be a viable alternative for musicians for the time being? Have you been involved in any or are you planning to? 
I completely agree that there is no energy or chemistry in this remotely connected world. I don’t know how actors can bring all their emotion to a camera without an audience but I guess there is something to learn there if online performing is becoming the norm.

The other factor that makes gigs great is being in a community of people all sharing the same feelings together. I read an article recently about the psychology of group activities. When musicians are playing together their brainwaves are aligning, and when an audience is watching their brainwaves are aligning with the musicians. We all share the experience.  That is completely missing from the current situation. There’s no singalong, moving heads together, screaming over one another. It’s just you on your phone or TV. Not the same.

I’ve really shied away from streaming gigs. I’m too nervous about getting all the tech in place to make it a worthwhile experience for an audience. André, whom I mentioned earlier, did a streaming gig from an empty club and seemed to like it though.

This is something we ask pretty much everyone we know, not just during the interviews…
we are massive fans of movie soundtracks, what is your favourite movie soundtrack (if any)? And what existing movie would you like to recreate (or even just curate) a new soundtrack for?

There are several I go back to every year! Lost in Translation is amazing. It sounds like staying up all night in Tokyo. The Crow soundtrack is retro but has some great songs on it including a Nine Inch Nails cover of “Dead Souls” by Joy Division. I really like the Johnny Greenwood soundtrack for You Were Never Really Here. Of course, I have to mention Thom Yorke’s 2018 remake of Suspiria, a soundtrack that I liked so much that I covered a song from it called “Unmade.” You can hear it on War Is On Its Way.

Free question – please ask yourself a question that you have always wanted to get asked. Could be a question about your future plans, or a statement or just a story you’d like to share with us and our readers. 

What’s next?
I’m releasing a compilation album early next year, mainly songs from 2008-2015. It’s 100% noise pop and has one new song on it I can’t wait to share. I also have book coming out in April 2021 about the shared ways musicians and designers think and work (I’m both). It’s called Two Beats Ahead.

Before we let you go, can you recommend a couple of great new bands/artists you are into at the moment? Any local artist we should be aware of? 
Definitely check out André’s record. Other artists I’ve been into lately are MJ Guider, Oliver Coates, Vök, and bdrmm.

Thanks so much for your time and looking forward to hearing more music from you.

Follow R.M. Hendrix at the links below:

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